About 22 days ago I began the hatching process with my kindergartners. I didn't know a thing about hatching chicks, but I did know that if it worked it would be an experience that my students would remember forever. I borrowed the incubator and egg turner from the Clemson Extension program. They also provided the eggs! The woman in charge brought me 14 fertilized eggs and kept on saying things like "You have to keep water in the pan for humidity. I know you probably already know this." The truth is...I knew NOTHING. I had no idea that eggs needed to be turned or that the eggs needed high humidity. The most memorable thing she told me was that I would have to "dispose of the chickens" (don't worry, I'm giving them to a farmer). I learned a lot really fast and just hoped that everything would turn out well.
My students kept a journal where they wrote about the development inside the eggs every five days. We looked at pictures of developing eggs and talked about what new body parts had developed. My FABULOUS father made me a brooder box complete with a heat lamp, a clear front, and chicken decor on the exterior. As the days went on my students (and the whole school) got very excited. I became really nervous that my chicks would not hatch. My classroom had become a hot topic in the building and I did not want to fail. After candling some of my eggs I could see that several were developing, but there were a few that had not. I did not look at all the eggs or discard the duds, so I really had no idea what to expect on hatching day.
By day 20 I began to panic. Eggs usually hatch in 21 days. I was not sure if the chicks would start pecking by day 20 but I really wanted to see some signs of hatching. I had convinced myself that my chicks were not going to hatch. That night I went out and bought supplies for a hatching day party (just in case my instincts were wrong). I bought chick/egg garland, peeps, and chick lollipops.
On day 21 I nervously walked down the hallway to my classroom. I unlocked my door, put my purse down, and then...I heard it. I heard noise coming from the incubator. I peeked inside and there was a hatched chick! I screamed a loud scream and ran down the hallway. I had to find SOMEONE, ANYONE to tell the good news to. It was only 6:30, so there weren't a whole lot of people at work yet! After delivering the good news, I made a Happy Hatch Day poster, and put it on my door. I was a very proud chick mama. When my students got to school they were beyond excited. The rest of the school was also excited! I think I had half of my school walk through my classroom that day. By the end of the day I had two hatched chicks and two eggs that had begun to crack!
Day 22 was very exciting. I knew some more chicks had probably hatched. I was thinking I would have a total of three to five chicks all together. You can't even imagine how surprised I was when I saw FIVE chicks in my incubator that morning! That brought my total to SEVEN! I was told that a 50% hatch rate was really impressive and I had gotten there. My students were eager to look at the chicks and they asked to hold them several times. I was still pretty nervous about those babies, so I told them no. I think I will let them hold them tomorrow if they still want to. The reason I say that is because in order to get my students to stop asking to hold the chicks, I had to tell them that there was poop on the chick's feet and therefore, they shouldn't hold them. They stopped asking pretty quick, but proceeded to tell EVERYONE that there was poop on the chick's feet. We had several more visitors.
There was one egg that had been struggling to escape all day long. I watched it for a good two hours, but it made very slow progress. I am really looking forward to seeing if he made it! I will be pretty sad if he doesn't!
I believe that kindergartners need meaningful, first hand experiences. That is what I am trying hard to give them. If they only remember one thing about kindergarten, I hope this experience is it! I know that I will remember it for a lifetime!